August 13 – 25, 2022

Shock and Awe: The Films of the Dubya Years

Series | Aero Theatre and Los Feliz 3

Filmmaker and educator Brandon David Wilson guest programs two films as part of his original series “Shock and Awe: The Films of the Dubya Years,” a selection of films that addresses the U.S. politics of the Dubya Era. The series is co-presented with the Pickford Film Center in Bellingham, Washington.

Program notes on the films by Brandon David Wilson:

SHORTBUS, 2006, Oscilloscope, 101 min, USA, Dir: John Cameron Mitchell. 

Five years after turning his iconic rock musical into a feature film, John Cameron Mitchell released his follow up film that in his own words was “everything we needed to get through a second term of George W. Bush.” SHORTBUS, which was developed through workshops for years before it was shot, is the kind of film directors dare themselves to make but, at some point in the process either lose their nerve or compromise into oblivion. The film’s title refers to an underground salon in New York City that features art, song, and pansexual orgies. Like one of Robert Altman’s ensemble films, the characters are a disparate group of young New Yorkers who find themselves drawn to this space. The sex scenes are unsimulated which at the time of its release got a lot of attention. But unlike other films that seek to break the taboo of unsimulated sex, SHORTBUS didn’t use sex to shock or even titillate. The scenes of intimacy instead contribute to a bracing honesty. The sex merely reveals the characters the way musical numbers do in a good musical. Ultimately, it is only one element in a film that is an anthem for living and feeling deeply, even in the darkest of times.

STARSHIP TROOPERS, 1997, Sony Repertory 129 min, USA, Dir: Paul Verhoeven. 

It is easy to think you’re smarter than STARSHIP TROOPERS but that’s a mistake. Even though it was released in the Clinton Era, no film more accurately foretold the Dubya Era and its cycle of terrorism giving way to military adventurism like Paul Verhoeven’s adaptation of the Robert A. Heinlein novel. Verhoeven drew on his memories of growing up in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands to tell a story which he sums up as “war makes fascists of us all.” We follow a group of teenagers from their utopian high school days and watch them become hardened warriors for their totalitarian state after a devastating attack from an insectoid alien race. Mixing satire, dazzling special effects, and Verhoeven’s impressive staging of combat, STARSHIP TROOPERS blurs the line between rousing American action films and fascist propaganda in a way we now understand all too clearly. Ensuing presidencies may have shattered our vision of ourselves, but thanks to Verhoeven and his crew, we cannot say we weren’t warned.

SAT AUG 13, 2022

7:00 PM


$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)

Los Feliz 3 | Introduction by guest programmer Brandon David Wilson. 

Read More about SHORTBUS
THU AUG 25, 2022

7:30 PM


$10.00 (member) ; $15.00 (general admission)

Aero Theatre | Q&A with filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell. 

New restoration, courtesy of Oscilloscope. Introduction by guest programmer Brandon David Wilson.